Half the global workforce will require reskilling by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
It doesn’t matter how many times you see or hear these statistics, they always have the power to shock.
And there’s more.
In its research, The Future of Jobs Report 2020, the WEF predicts a seismic shift in terms of what roles are required, with 85 million jobs being redundant by 2025 and 97 million new roles being created. Given these predictions, it’s hardly surprising that reskilling and upskilling are still watchwords going into 2022.
The changing skills landscape
The message is clear: skills are changing, jobs are changing, organizations and industries are changing – the whole landscape of work is changing and it’s happening at breakneck speed.
What’s behind these changes? Technology of course, although a global pandemic has also had its part to play.
Tech innovation and the uptake of automation are driving this need for reskilling and upskilling.
The digital revolution was already well underway by 2020 and then COVID-19 struck and those organizations that hadn’t already digitized, were suddenly forced to almost overnight. And there’s no turning back now.
As Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the WEF, says: “COVID-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work.”
That future is digital first, automated and it’s constantly evolving.
It’s what many are calling ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and it’s happening now.
According to the WEF research, the pandemic turbocharged digitization (84%) and automation (50%) and forced companies to scale remote working (83%).
Why do employers need to invest in reskilling and upskilling the workforce?
The ongoing rollout of new technologies and the changing face of work require the workforce to keep learning new skills, all the time.
Reskilling and upskilling are not one-off initiatives – they need to be the norm.
That’s why any organization that wants to thrive and remain competitive against this backdrop of constant innovation needs to foster a culture of continuous lifelong learning, where reskilling and upskilling are a top, strategic priority.
This requires a thorough understanding of what skills are needed today and what skills will be needed tomorrow, in the near, middle and long term.
Horizon scanning is an essential part of workforce planning and it needs to be undertaken routinely and then acted on.
Knowing what the business critical skills are is half the battle – the other half is knowing how to get them. Increasingly, employers are realizing that the best approach to workforce planning is one that focuses on building an internal talent pipeline to meet future skills needs, rather than buying in skills on an ad hoc basis.
Not only does this help organizations have the skills they need in order to move forward, it also enables you to make the most of your existing workforce by reskilling people to move into future-facing roles.
And it avoids the problem of employers having to make people redundant in one area of the business and then recruit people to fill gaps in other areas of the business and all of those associated costs.
Are employers taking this approach?
According to recent research by The Open University (OU), published in conjunction with the Institute of Directors, a lot of organizations are still taking the short term route of hiring in skills.
The latest Business Barometer report, shows that UK employers spent £3.2 billion last year hiring temporary staff to plug skills gaps.
The report also found that 63% of organizations – that’s nearly two thirds – are finding it hard to recruit because candidates lack the specialist skills and relevant experience that they so desperately need.
As a result, 24% of employers think finding employees with the right skills set will remain their biggest challenge over the next five years.
Viren Patel, director of the Business Development Unit at the OU, says the skills gap is an ongoing problem that isn’t going to go away unless employers start taking proactive action.
“The skills and labor shortage is being felt across multiple sectors of the UK economy and many employers see this as a long term challenge. We want all organizations from all sectors to think ahead and invest to fuel future talent and success.”
Many of the 1,500 business leaders polled in the Business Barometer report say they are already feeling the impact of not having the right skills in the right place.
More than half (56%) say unfilled vacancies are having a negative impact on their organization and workforce, with the skills shortages stifling their growth potential and overextending the workforce.
This, they think, could also be having an adverse impact on employee wellbeing.
Tech has a role to play
Pre COVID-19, many organizations were talking about digital transformation, but not taking the necessary steps to achieve it.
One of the things the pandemic has taught us is that technology can be a force for good.
That includes in the workplace, as Caroline Francis, managing director in Talent & Organization at Accenture UK, explains: “Automation is a key enabler for businesses to free up their workers from repetitive and manual tasks, and to redirect their time and skills into other high-value work.”
Francis thinks employers need to take the opportunity to reassess what their organizational and workforce needs are in terms of skills, technology and learning.
“We are witnessing a war for talent across all sectors, from lorry drivers to data scientists. The pandemic has not only created an opportunity for businesses to rethink, reinvent and reimagine themselves, but also how, where and when people will work.
“Organizations that cultivate a culture of learning that is continuous, inclusive and digitally-enabled will have greater success in winning the war for talent.”
And the time to do it is now. It’s not long until 2025, which means a little over three years to upskill 50% of the workforce.